The Wheel Of Fortune card, like other cards of the Major Arcana, varies widely in depiction between Tarot decks. The card has been modeled ever since the tarot’s inception in the 15th century after the medieval concept of Rota Fortunae, the wheel of the goddess Fortuna. Images generally show a six- or eight-spoked wheel, often attended or crested by an individual (sometimes human; sometimes a Sphinx-like half-human) attired in an Egyptian-style headdress. In some decks, such as the AG Müller, the wheel is also attended by an individual wearing a blindfold; and often there are people sitting or riding on the wheel whilst others are shown falling from it.
The wheel is not always shown inscribed with any lettering. Where this is the case, the letters T-A-R-O (clockwise) or T-O-R-A (counter clockwise) can often be found aligned against four of the spokes, which can also be interpreted as R-O-T-A, the Latin word meaning “wheel”. In some decks, such as the Waite, the wheel is also inscribed with additional alchemical symbols representing the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water (which are also said to be represented throughout the Tarot by the four ‘suits’ of Pentacles or Discs, Swords, Wands and Cups respectively. These emblems can also be seen on the Magician’s table in the Magician card (Card I)).
On the Waite card shown, though not necessarily on others, there are also four winged creatures in the corners of the card (opening books), representing the symbols of the four Evangelists (The Lion, the Ox, the Man and the Eagle) or the Four Living Creatures who holds up the Throne of God. These four Evengelists are also represented by the four fixed astrological signs: Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio. In addition a representation of the god Anubis is seen rising with the wheel on the right side, while the snake-likeTyphon descends on the left. On the wheel, alternating with the letters T-A-R-O are the Hebrew letters י-ה-ו-ה, usually transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh), the name of the God of Israel.
A common aspect to most interpretations of this card within a reading is to introduce an element of change in the querant’s life, such change being in station, position or fortune: such as the rich becoming poor, or the poor becoming rich
In Greek mythology, there are three women known as the Fates. They are responsible for spinning the destiny of each person at his or her birth. It is not surprising that the Fates are spinners because the wheel of fortune is an apt image for the elusive turns of a man’s fate. This is the theme of Card 10.
The Wheel of Fortune is one of the few cards in the major arcana that does not have a human figure as a focal point. This is because its center is above the realm of man – in the higher levels (clouds) where the destinies of all are woven together in the tapestry of life. The tarot recognizes that each person sets his own path in life, but is also subject to the larger cycles that include him. We experience chance events that appear to be accidents although they are part of the great plan.
In readings, the Wheel of Fortune can indicate a vision or realization that strikes with great force. If you’ve been struggling with a problem or tough situation, this card can signal that you will find the answer if you stand back and view everything from a larger perspective.
The Wheel of Fortune also represents unexpected encounters and twists of fate. You can’t predict surprises; you can only be aware when one is circling around. Indeed, Card 10 often suggests wheel-like actions – changes in direction, repeating cycles and rapid movement. When the energy of the Wheel arrives, you will feel life speed up. You are caught in a cyclone that may deposit you anywhere. “Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.”
The Wheel of Fortune is highly symbolic. The angel in the top left corner is Aquarius, the eagle is Scorpio, the lion is Leo and the bull is Taurus. These are the four fixed signs of the Zodiac but all have wings signifying stability amidst movement and change. The book they each have in their hands is the Torah, representing wisdom.
On the wheel itself are the Hebrew letters IHVH (Yod Heh Vau Heh), the unpronounceable name of God. Interspersed with these letters are TORA (read anti-clockwise) or TARO (read clockwise) which also translates to TAROT when you return to the spot where you started.
The snake descending on the left side of the Wheel is the Egyptian god Typhon, the god of evil. The snake also represents the life force descending into the material world. The Anubis rising on the right side of the Wheel is Hermes, a symbol of intelligence, wisdom ascending or our shadow selves. The Sphinx on the top of the wheel represents life’s riddles.
The middle wheel contains the alchemical symbols for mercury, sulphur, water and salt – the building blocks of life and the four elements – and represents formative power. The outer circle represents the material world. The eight spokes in the wheel represent the Universal radiant energy, as well as the eight Sabbats of the year.
The blue background represents wisdom.
The planet of this card is Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, growth, success, and expansion. The number 10 is a higher octave of the number 1, empowering the qualities of the 1.